Mother was always last on her own list, but she’d had enough when she admired Cousin Franny’s new dress, and Franny turned her nose up and said, “This old thing. It ain’t fit for nothing.” Franny was a doll-like woman who reveled in only weighing ninety pounds and wearing a size four shoe. She dressed beautifully even if she charged her clothes and had to outrun creditors. She took pleasure in making sure other women in the family couldn’t ignore her, putting them down at every opportunity. Her girls were daintier, cuter, better dressed, and she had to work hard to get them to eat; a stark contrast to our voracious appetites and hand-me-downs. I always wanted to be a picky eater at Franny’s, but her goodies always suckered me in.
“This ole thing,” was the last straw for Mother, a giant of a woman at five feet and one hundred and ten pounds. She always indulged herself and made sure she had a new dress and shoes after having a new baby. Spurred on by Franny’s snotty put downs, she pinched back nickels and quarters her whole pregnancy and was able to buy enough fabric to make two beautiful spring dresses and buy two pairs of matching pastel pumps to finish off her gorgeous ensembles. She agonized over which to wear at the first family gathering to show off her slender figure and new baby. Finally, she decided to wear the green and save the pink outfit for church Sunday, her first back since having the baby. Not surprisingly, she was the center of attention. Her dress clung to her tiny waist as her post-partum bosoms imposed on her bodice. All her sisters in law praised her eye for design and her perfect sewing. She wore an apron to protect her new dress while helping get lunch on the table and carefully kept a burp towel on her shoulder while feeding her pretty new baby. Her only regret was that she hadn’t been able to show off the pink dress and pumps that day, too. Even better, Franny was bewailing her fifth pregnancy that day. She was miserably sick but Mother saw her envious glances between episodes of throwing up. It was a perfect day.
Mother needn’t have regretted not being able to show off her pink shoes that day. She could always count on her children to anticipate her needs. At eleven Phyllis was a girly, girl. She got in Mother’s make up and gowns at every opportunity. She wore dresses and wanted her hair curled every day. She had coveted the beautiful shoes months before when Mother slipped them in. She was able to put them out of her mind when they disappeared deep in Mother’s closet, but as Mother twirled around in her new dress and mint green high heels, it was more than Phyllis could stand. She was overcome with jealousy and righteous indignation. Mother had two new dresses and matching shoes to match and expected her to wear old scuffed saddle oxfords!!! Phyllis sulked self-righteously until it got the best of her. Kicking the hated saddle oxfords far under the bed, she slipped in Mother’s closet to just see how the pink shoes felt. They were perfect!!! She had to wear them just a little while. When she took a trial stroll by Mother, Mother didn’t say a word. Okay.
After lunch that day, the kids went out to play. Predictably, it was not long before howling brought all the mothers flocking to the front yard. The appropriate mother dragged the damaged kid in for examination and first aid, while the others ordered their kids to stop jumping off the high front porch in the mud. Mother made a horrible realization. Phyllis had abandoned her normal prissiness and joined the others, primly jumping off the high porch into the mud in Mother’s new pastel pink pumps……the ones she hadn’t even worn once!!!!! Mother ordered her indoors, confiscated the precious shoes, and set Phyllis to cleaning the mud from the inside and outside while pondering the inevitable consequences she could expect once Mother had time to deal with her.
The shoes cleaned up better than Mother expected, so Mother was somewhat mollified and Phyllis’s life was spared. The next Sunday came and went, and Mother looked great at church in her fancy new pink outfit. Even that snooty Sally Greeley admired her. Life was good.
Time rocked on. Mother went to town on Thursdays to buy groceries and run her week’s errands. She dressed in her pink outfit and was blissfully pushing her cart through the grocery store, generously acknowledging the compliments of all the other ladies who were also doing their Thursday shopping. Mother was shopping for seven, so her cart was heavy as she teetered her way toward the checkout, a vision of pink loveliness. An unhappy snap interrupted her pleasant jaunt. Horrified, she looked down to see the heel of her pink pump snapped about one inch up its four inch height. Worse yet, the break was not complete. A thin sliver of dainty pink leather held the broken portion dangling crazily. She looked around, hoping no one had noticed. Fortunately, she and a couple of the children were alone in the aisle. She sent one of them speeding for a roll of cellophane in hopes of salvaging her pride. The tape held almost till she got near the front of the store, betraying her just as she was chatting with her friends, and of course, Sally Greeley was right there waiting for her, pretending to be sympathetic.